In July, I vacationed in Ocean City, Maryland with my long-distance boyfriend who lives in Kansas. I haven’t blogged in a while and I figured this was a good opportunity to share some photos and gush over our trip. Making the drive from Pennsylvania isn’t too awful–about four hours. It’s more bearable when you have someone to keep you company. Matthew and I only see each other every few months, so I wanted to make this excursion count.
Best hotel room ever: full kitchen, balcony with chairs, king size tempur pedic mattress, comfy couch, table and chairs, and a heart-shaped jacuzzi, where we soaked and watched Comedy Central each night. Housekeeping even washed our dirty dishes one day. It seemed okay to stand on our balcony without wearing too much since we saw a lot of people wander into shops wearing only their swimsuits. We definitely aren’t used to that in PA and KS.
We arrived on a Sunday evening and decided it’d be nice to walk the beach as the sun was setting. It had been years since either of us visited a beach, and it was breathtaking. There’s something so comforting about digging your toes into the sand, feeling the cold, salty water jump up and splash you, and feeling the spaces between your toes filled with ocean. I tried to forget everything I knew about all the pollution lurking in the world’s oceans (and that it’s our fault) and just enjoy what I saw. When I called home, my mom even asked if the water was clean, and I had to respond, “Well, no, the ocean’s super dirty and polluted…but yeah, we’re swimming in it.” In any case, I was astounded by that feeling of being pulled and then pushed back out. I’ve made reference to the ocean quite a bit in my academic writing during graduate school, and standing there for the first time in over ten years confirmed for me that this may be where we come from, and yet there’s so much we don’t know about her. I stood there looking out and thought about the missing Malaysia flight being here, in this enormous, terrifying body of water.
During our first few days, we sat on the beach and visited the never-ending boardwalk. After that, the weather turned gloomy, and we actually left the beach because it became so cold. I brought along The Secret Life of Lobsters (pretty appropriate, no?) to peruse on the beach, but I was distracted by the picnic basket filled with cold leftover pizza and the handsome boy jumping into the tide. I got knocked over a few times and could’ve sworn I cut my feet. I wasn’t ready for the onslaught of commercials we found at the beach, both jetting through the surf and sailing above us behind biplanes, urging us to call Geico or to spend our money on particular oceanside excursions. Matt found some seashells for me, and those are really the only mementos I need. Besides a pushy girl who wanted to take professional photos of us, our time at the beach was pure bliss and also pretty fleeting. I was worried that I’d want to leave soon after arriving since I’m not a fan of baking in the sun, but the ocean’s breeze is so cooling, I really couldn’t get enough of it. Matt mostly jumped through the waves, and I’d look up occasionally from my salt water-stained pages to make sure the sea hadn’t claimed him. Whenever he’d convince me to wade deeper than my thighs, I realized my feet must actually be too soft and polished for beach life–the rocks were painful and annoying to walk through. We were lucky; the beach wasn’t overly crowded, and we found it fun and relaxing to watch the seagulls and toddlers walk across the sand. Matt and I are both extreme introverts (don’t talk to us while we’re in line at the grocery store) and can be recluses, so it’s rather easy to find ourselves in social situations we’d rather not be in.
I’m also compelled to add (and I made mention of this observation to Matt at the time) that visiting the beach is a real exercise in humility. We saw people of every size and shape, but nobody seemed overly conscious or ashamed of their bodies, and nobody we saw was interested in critiquing anyone else (at least verbally). The beach is a sort of space where we can all be by ourselves, but together. You can people-watch without feeling that you’re being watched, and any insecurities you have just seem to melt away since the sun is shining and the ocean is so mesmerizing; in short, nobody’s there to be negative or ruin anyone else’s day. On the same note, the ocean is also a type of non-space, always shifting and changing, violent yet nourishing, and the beach is where this creature–the sea– meets land, so there are certainly some interesting things we can notice about it.
We happened upon a fantastic restaurant right next to our hotel, OC Steamers, which didn’t necessarily look like much from the outside. However, once inside, there’s a gorgeous view of the ocean, and during our second visit, we were lucky enough to catch the sun going down and refracting off the water, which was beautiful. There’s also an outdoor area with picnic tables and sand underneath, so you can slip out of your flip flops as you eat and dig your toes into the sand. Seafood isn’t Matt’s thing, so I was relieved that he found the best steak he’d ever eaten at this restaurant. I ordered a bowl of cream of crab soup, which was easily some of the best food I’ve ever had as well, and certainly the yummiest soup. I’m not a fan of steak, but I kept asking Matt for bites of his. Really amazing. The chef even came out and quickly asked us how our food was without hovering, and I told him it was awesome. Between the food and the friendly service at this place, OC Steamers was a great dining experience, and I’d go back to OC just to visit them again.
Another place to go in OC is Dumser’s for ice cream or a shake. I think the name sounds a bit too similar to the word “Dumpster’s,” but we managed to visit them twice, once on the boardwalk. I do remember seeing Dumser’s name and photos all over Pinterest whenever I searched “Ocean City MD” in the weeks and months before our trip. Via Pinterest, I also discovered that while there, we should visit a place called Fractured Prune donut shoppe, but we must have ventured in the wrong direction on the boardwalk since we never saw it. Next time.
On the third day of our trip, we drove into Virginia to Chincoteague Island and took a pony cruise. We were both a bit disappointed when we only spotted some ponies in the distance. We were able to see lots of bird species, though, including a bald eagle hanging out in a tree above us. When we circled back around, he was still sitting there, looking frozen solid, not moving a muscle. The tickets were a bit pricey for not spotting any wild ponies, but I suppose they can’t guarantee a sighting. Whale watches always do, so I’m at a loss.
We were so tired by our last day at the shore that we took a delicious nap before dinner. We had a really nice dinner (again at OC Steamers), and we played mini golf at a place with under-the-sea (inside) and dinosaur (outside) themes. I had a ball quoting the movie Clifford while we putted, since the course reminded me so much of the fictitious Dinosaur World from that movie. Of course, we had to watch it right away after arriving back in Pennsylvania. Right across the street, we found an adorable place called Sweet Frog. When I decided that maybe it was a good idea to purchase a cute t-shirt with a froggy picture on it, Matt and I discovered that FROG is an acronym for “Firmly Rely on God,” so, yeah, that’s a NO on the souvenir t-shirt.
Even though we had bought some fudge from a Candy Kitchen on the boardwalk to take home with us, it was gone pretty quickly. Since we spotted about a thousand Candy Kitchens during our time in Maryland, we stopped again on our way home to buy some more: cookies and cream, peanut butter, and chocolate mint. We decided taffy and fudge was the option for bringing home gifts since–let’s be honest–just about everything sold at the shore (MD and Jersey both) is junk. I wouldn’t have minded an Ocean City t-shirt, but I’m not paying $20-$25 for one.
I’d say my favorite parts of this vacation were the beach, the amazing seaside food, and spending time with the sweetest person I know. There’s nothing like eating seafood, knowing it was likely caught that day, and looking out over the ocean while dining. Even though I’ve visited maybe half a dozen times, we’d like our next getaway to be in Salem, Massachusetts: lots of fun historical stuff, more interesting souvenirs, whale watching off the coast of Maine, and even more great seafood!